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How to Remove Stubborn Brake Dust from Car Paint and Aluminum & Chrome Rims

Driving fast is fun, but slowing down in time tends to be more important. When you take a very good look at the car improvement sector, it is amazing how much money car enthusiasts spend on improving horsepower, air intake, and exhaust flow, or bolting on “power adders”. However, without investing in ample brake technology, those performance gains can cause more harm than good.

When you march on the binders, brake dust is produced. It coats your wheels, suspension components, and yes – even your paint. If it is left on the car paint, it can infuse onto the clear coat of paint, vinyl materials, and even plastic trim pieces.

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Brake dust is typically a combination of multiple particles, some from the pads, others from the rotors or drums which work together to help stop the car. Some of the ‘ingredients’ of brake dust include carbon, iron, ceramic materials, plastics, polymers, and even aluminum.

Indeed there are some trouble spots that tend to collect brake dust more than others. Obviously, the wheels are the leading source of brake dust collection. Although it depends on the material of the brake components, and that of the surface where it is bonded, brake dust can either be a speck of light surface dust or embedded onto the material.

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It is also very common for brake dust and other iron-based metallic debris to stick to the rear end of vehicles. This is due to a low-pressure zone that is created as a vehicle accelerates down the road. However, there is another scientific property that helps ferrous-based substances to stick to the car’s metallic body parts.

Since there are many materials used in brake pads and rotors/drums, the level and type of brake dust can vary greatly. It oftentimes presents a challenging situation and interesting question – is there a single method for removing brake dust from your vehicle?

Removing surface or light brake dust can be completed by using the good old two-bucket method of car washing. At this stage, brake dust is no different than industrial fallout, dirt, or debris. It just sits on top of the clear coat of paint and is simple to wash away.

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But note that the longer it sits; it can begin to stick or embed itself into the material. This tends to occur on metallic surfaces, as most brake dust are comprised of microscopic levels of ferrous-based materials or those comprised of steel or iron substances.

So, for you to remove brake dust that is stuck onto metal, you must get creative or introduce some chemistry. This is where those iron removal or rail dust sprays come in quite handy.

Normally, these products are pH-neutral chemical formulations that work by reacting with surface contaminants, primarily those that have microscopic levels of iron or steel. It works by loosening the brake dust and industrial fallout over a few minutes of exposure, then gets rubbed down with a sponge or wash mitt, then can be sprayed off.

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There are some that contain a color-based activator that will “change color” on the surface, to show you it’s working.

How to Remove Stubborn Brake Dust From Car Paint

Most wheel cleaners are highly acidic substances that are intended to be used on solid metals as opposed to clear coated paint applied on metals. Nonetheless, there are two factors that will dictate how you remove brake dust. First, if it is a light dust that hasn’t stuck to your clear coat or metallic surface, you can use a regular two-bucket car wash. But if it is already stuck, there are two proven methods for removing brake dust from the paint.

  1. The Clay Bar or Clay Mitt Method

A clay mitt or clay bar is specially formulated clay that is rubbed on a vehicle surface to remove small particles that are stuck. In this cleaning process, there is a recommended method for use.

  • Get your supplies: Note that to clay a vehicle correctly, you’ll need a high-quality clay bar or clay mitt. For brake dust particles, medium-grade clay will work just fine. You also need to have a good clay lubricant spray.
  • Wash the whole vehicle first: After you must have collected all your claying supplies, wash your car by using the two-bucket method. Make sure you completely dry the vehicle as well.
  • Apply the clay lube spray liberally: Have it in mind that you can’t use enough lubricant. The more the better. The most important thing is not to let the clay grab onto the surface. It should glide over it, which will remove those brake dust particles without damaging the paint surface.
  • Glide the clay bar or clay mitt over the section: Note that it is advisable to work in small, square sections. You can start with 4 – feet by 4 – feet. Just make sure to keep spraying lubricant as you go – keep that surface lube.
  • Rinse off: When you’re done with each section, rinse it off with your spray hose.
  • Finish the vehicle then rewash and dry: Most people tend to neglect this step. Note that clay lube is essentially a 50/50 mix of car wash soap and distilled water. This makes it very concentrated, so it’ll want to stick to the surface. If you forget to wash the vehicle again – using the two-bucket method, then that concentrated soap is going to stick – making your car look horrible.
  1. Using Iron Removal Sprays

If you choose not to use the above claying method, then you should consider using a dedicated iron removal spray. Any iron removal spray you use should be a pH-neutral formulation. Don’t use a product that is acidic, as this will wreck the car’s clear coat very quickly – especially if it is not protected with a ceramic coating or other paint protection product. These products are not all the same and they come in different varieties and with different processes. While the basic chemistry is similar, each brand or product has unique steps or formulations in some cases. So, you should always follow the exact steps as directed by the product you use.

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How to Remove Stubborn Brake Dust From Aluminium & Chrome Rims

Washing with traditional detergents and supplies will often not get the wheels as clean as you would like. Doing a thorough job does not in any way mean spending huge amounts of money and time on the task. Here is a simple four-step process to help bring the shine back to your car Rims.

  1. Blast the wheels with high-pressure water

Have it in mind that clingy brake dust is not only on the outward-facing surface of the wheel. It is also on the back of the wheel, tire, brake caliper, and nearby suspension components. Entirely removing the wheel/tire combination for cleaning is not practical (unless you’re performing a weekend-long detail), so you have to find a way to reach all the dust you can’t see. High-pressure water, preferably from a pressure washer, will attack much of the dust.

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Take your time to spray the whole wheel with as much high-pressure water as you can through the wheel spokes, on the tire, and around the wheel well opening. Note that even if you don’t have a pressure washer, a good, adjustable hose nozzle will help. Adjust the hose for maximum pressure. You want the wheel to be wet before moving on to step two.

  1. Apply a wheel-safe cleaning solution

Note that the finish on modern aluminum Rims can be as delicate as a car’s painted finish. The last thing you want to do to a car is to touch it with some harsh chemical that can damage the wheels’ finish. However, there is a huge variety of safe wheel cleaners available in the market. These ones are designed for use on wheels or rims with delicate finishes, yet are strong enough to break down the brake dust. You just have to wet the wheel, spray on the solution, and let it do its job, typically for one to three minutes (read the manufacturer’s label for specific instructions).

  1. Agitate solution to reach all sides of the wheel

In terms of car washing, the best thing is to have the right tool for the job, as well as to have a dedicated tool for the job. Note that you should always have products ready to most effectively and efficiently perform the task(s) at hand. Your wheel cleaning arsenal should contain brushes of various sizes and thicknesses, including some with extra-long handles. After you must have applied the wheel solution, help it along by brushing the various wheel surfaces. Pay special attention to the sides of the wheel openings, where accumulation can be greater. Also, note that washing clothes dedicated to wheel cleaning will do a better job on flat external surfaces. Rinse and dry the wheel thoroughly, and rinse out the brushes and cloths at the same time.

  1. Spray a protective wax coating to the wheel

Immediately the wheels are clean, you want to do everything to keep them clean and away from brake dust. Cars are driven in all kinds of weather, and when the brakes are applied, brake dust will once again make an appearance. So how do you ensure the wheels and rims remain clean?

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Just like paint, you can protect the wheels’ finish with a coat of wax. This wax will both maximize the gloss and protect the surface. Note that once you apply a coat of wax, dirt and grease are less likely to adhere to the wheels. Have it in mind that a quick job can be done with a spray-on wax, provided you take extra care to not get any wax on the braking surfaces. If you have the luxury of time, apply a standard wax — just like what you may use on paint — with a soft cloth. Allow the wax to dry, and then buff it out.